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Chelsea vs. Stoke: Game Preview

Amir Begovic picks yet another Chelsea goal out of his net as the Potters are thrashed 7-0 at Stamford Bridge last season.
Amir Begovic picks yet another Chelsea goal out of his net as the Potters are thrashed 7-0 at Stamford Bridge last season.

Time: 3:00 PM BST (7:00 AM PST), Saturday August 28th

Location: Stamford Bridge, London

Preamble: Chelsea have started their season with a bang, and after just two weeks are the only team in the league not to have dropped points. In probably related news, they've also faced by far the weakest schedule of any team: Wigan Athletic and West Bromwich Albion hardly pose the same sort of challenge as do Manchester City or Arsenal. Still, six points are in the bag, and you can't just wave away consecutive 6-0 victories - the team has been on fire so far. With Stoke City coming into town on the back of two consecutive losses and a 7-0 hammering at Stamford Bridge last year, there's no reason for the hot streak to end against the Potters.

Opposition: Stoke City have only been in the league for two full seasons, but they've established themselves as a solid Premier League side. A lot of their success hinges on their performance at their home ground; they're a notoriously difficult team to beat at the Brittania Stadium. Chelsea barely escaped Stoke three points last year, and Tottenham Hotspur would probably consider themselves lucky to have emerged with the full spoils last weekend. Their away performance is typically less impressive, however, and Chelsea will doubtless be disappointed if they failed to win decisively.

Not only are Stoke returning to the scene of a 7-0 humilation last season, they're also without both of their first-choice strikers, including £8M summer signing Kenwyn Jones. Follow striker Mamady Sidibe will be out for most of the season following an achilles injury. However, they still have throw-in expert Rory Delap at their disposal, which may well force the Blues to move their advertising hoardings closer to the field in order to disrupt his trademark lobs into the penalty area. Ex-Chelsea defender Roberth Huth will presumably start for the Potters, and goalkeeper Amir Begovic will add some intrigue to the match, as there had been reports indicating that he was refusing to play for Stoke and wished for a transfer to the Blues.

Injury Report: Fullback Branislav Ivanovic is doubtful with a back problem, with Paulo Ferreira set to take his place. Ferreira has looked limited whenever he's seen time with the team over the past year or so, so watch out for Stoke attacking heavily down the Chelsea left. Jeffrey Bruma is still out after surgery for a hernia, while Gael Kakuta is also missing as he recovers from a back complaint. There's been no news regarding Jose Bosingwa's long recovery, which can only be bad news, but Daniel Sturridge has lightened the mood a little by being declared fit and ready to play.

Ramires: The Brazilian international and £18.2M summer purchase is all set to make his debut tomorrow, presumably seeing his first game action from the substitute's bench. One would imagine that he'll appear as soon as the game is in hand and three points are secured, probably for Frank Lampard or Michael Essien.

Stat Report: Chelsea attack stands at 73% better than league average, with the defence also coming in strong at 39% better than average. Meanwhile Stoke won't score too many goals at 32% below league average on the attack, but they have a fairly adequate defence at 2% better than average. Chelsea should be expecting to score a little more than two and a half goals per game including home field advantage, while it would be a surprise if Stoke even managed one goal. Prediction: 3-0.

Win/draw expectancies stand at an impressive combined total of 96.3%, and we should expect a whopping 2-2/3rds points out of this fixture. It'll take a freak result for Stoke to get much out of the game.

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